Student Intern Freed Competes at Intel ISEF, Two Others Awarded at Local Science Fair

By Ashley DeVine, Staff Writer; photo by Richard Frederickson, Staff Photographer
Student standing by her poster.

Rebecca “Natasha” Freed stands in front her poster at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pa., where she earned a fourth-place award for her research project. Photo courtesy of Natasha Freed, 2014–2015 Werner H. Kirsten student intern.

Class of 2014–2015 Werner H. Kirsten (WHK) student intern Rebecca “Natasha” Freed earned a fourth-place award in biochemistry at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the largest high school science research competition in the world, according to the Society for Science & the Public’s website.

Freed described the event as “transformative experience,” where she was able to present her research to “experts, including Nobel laureates, as well as members of the general community and, of course, to [other students].”

She was among the approximately 1,700 young scientists from 75 countries to participate in the fair held in Pittsburgh, Pa., in May.

“I not only developed deeper insight into drug design methods, but also learned a great deal about areas of science and engineering in both the life sciences and physical sciences that I had not previously had the opportunity to explore,” she said.

Freed’s project, “Interrogating Ras Function with Protein Mimetics,” involved developing synthetic peptides that inhibit Ras function, in hopes of developing potential cancer therapeutics. Oncogenic Ras signaling plays a role in about one-third of all cancers, according to an article in the Center for Cancer Research’s (CCR’s) online publication, CCR Connections.

To qualify for the ISEF, Freed earned the grand prize award at the Frederick County Science Fair in March.

During her time as an intern at NCI at Frederick, Freed worked with mentor Nadya Tarasova, Ph.D., head of the Synthetic Biologics and Drug Discovery Facility, Cancer and Inflammation Program, CCR.

“I feel very fortunate for the opportunity to participate in the WHK student intern program, and for having such a great mentor and lab that allowed me to fully pursue my love for science,” she said.

Freed is a 2015 graduate of Governor Thomas Johnson High School and will be attending Johns Hopkins University in the fall to major in biomedical engineering.

Beall and Hoffman Awarded at Frederick County Science Fair

Alexander Beall and Morgan Hoffman, who were also 2014–2015 WHK student interns, received top awards at the Frederick County Science and Engineering Fair.

Beall earned a first-place award in engineering mechanics for his project, “Electromagnetic Tire Propulsion System Phase II.” His project was inspired by the technology used in maglev (short for magnetic levitation) trains—in which magnets are used, instead of a conventional engine, to lift and propel the trains.

“The goal was to prove that the concept of electromagnets rotating a tire on a fixed axle could replace the need for a motor,” he said. “In the end, a 22-pound remote-controlled cart was able to travel over 5 mph being driven by a single tire propelled by my electromagnetic propulsion system.”

Beall worked as an intern in the Genomics Laboratory, Cancer Research Technology Program, Leidos Biomedical Research, with mentor Nicole Shrader, research associate. He is a 2015 graduate of Brunswick High School and will attend the University of Maryland College Park this fall.

Hoffman was a second-place winner in the cellular and molecular biology category for her project, “Biophysical Characterization of the M. tuberculosis Protein SocB.” She analyzed the structure of SocB using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments.

“My project involved optimizing the yield of the protein SocB for different types of biophysical analysis, and using the protein for these analyses,” she said. “The poster I presented specifically showed the NMR data, which shows the protein to be intrinsically disordered.”

She said the next steps of the project would be to determine if SocB has some type of structure.

Hoffman is a 2015 graduate of Middletown High School. She worked with mentor Kylie Walters, Ph.D., senior investigator, and head, Protein Processing Section, Structural Biophysics Laboratory, CCR.

Alex Beall loads a QC chip to run a gel electrophoresis on a bioanalyzer while he worked as a student intern in the Genomics Laboratory, Cancer Research Technology Program, Leidos Biomedical Research. He earned a first-place award at the Frederick County Science and Engineering Fair.